David Bowie and the issue of statutory rape

*** note*** I wrote this the day David Bowie died. I took it down after months and months of rape threats. I’m republishing now, with more links to media coverage of Bowie’s involvement with the ‘baby groupies’ scene.

 

In the 1970s, David Bowie, along with Iggy Pop, Jimmy Page, Bill Wyman, Mick Jagger and others, were part of the ‘Baby Groupies’ scene in LA. The ‘Baby Groupies’ were 13 to 15 year old girls who were sexually exploited and raped by male rock stars. The names of these girls are easily searchable online but I will not share them here as all victims of rape deserve anonymity.

The ‘Baby Groupie‘ scene was about young girls being prepared for sexual exploitation (commonly refereed to as grooming) and then sexually assaulted and raped. Even articles which make it clear that the music industry ” ignor(ed), and worse enabl(ed), a culture that still allows powerful men to target young girls” celebrate that culture and minimise the choices of adult men to rape children and those who chose to look away. This is what male entitlement to sexual access to the bodies of female children and adults looks like. It is rape culture.

David Bowie is listed publicly as the man that one 14 year old girl ‘lost her virginity’ too.

We need to be absolutely clear about this, adult men do not ‘have sex’ with 13 and 14 year old girls. It is child rape. Children cannot consent to sex with adult men – even famous rock stars. Suggesting this is due to the ‘context’ of 70s LA culture is to wilfully ignore the history of children being sexually exploited by powerful men. The only difference to the ‘context’ here was that the men were musicians and not politicians, religious leaders, or fathers.

The basic requirement for a good person is taking responsibility for their choices and the consequences of their choices. At no point has Bowie, or another of the men involved in the sexual exploitation and rape of ‘baby groupies’ has taken responsibility for the consequences. I have yet to see a statement saying, “I participated in this culture. I hurt children by participating in this culture and I apologise to the children I abused and those whose abuse I ignored.” A man with Bowie’s financial wherewithal could have taken the second step and donated funds to rape crisis centres, funded programs working with vulnerable children at risk of sexual exploitation.

It is perfectly reasonable and rational to mourn a man whose music made a huge impact on your life. It is neither reasonable nor rational to pretend that that person was a ‘god’ and erase their illegal and unethical behaviour because you love their music. I wrote my undergraduate thesis and first MSc to the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s album Californication. That one album has had a positive impact on my life and I still play when working. I’ve since read Anthony Kiedis’ memoir Scar Tissue and know now that he has a history of sexual exploitation of teenage girls. I had been under no illusions of his misogynistic behaviour before reading the book, but I was not aware of the full extent.

David Bowie was an incredible musician who inspired generations. He also participated in a culture where children were sexually exploited and raped. This is as much a part of his legacy as his music.

 

 

 

#womenwrites: women in prison, leftist dudebros, & male bumblers

86 percent of women in jail are sexual-violence survivors, by Rachel Leah

According to a recent study, 86 percent of women who have spent time in jail report that they had been sexually assaulted at some point in their lives. As well, while women represent just 13 percent of the jail population between 2009 and 2011, they represented 67 percent of the victims of staff-on-inmate sexual victimization. Sexual violence is so pronounced among jailed and incarcerated women that Sen. Cory Booker, (D-NJ,) labeled the overarching phenomenon as “a survivor-of-sexual-trauma to prisoner pipeline.”

These numbers come from the Vera Institute of Justice, which authored a survey last year titled “Overlooked: Women and Jails in an Era of Reform.” Given the rising numbers of incarcerated women, specifically in local jails, and the lack of research on them, the Institute wanted to examine who those women were and what adversities they faced. Other findings were equally alarming as those above.

Two thirds of the women in jail are of color, and the majority of that population is also low-income. Further, nearly 80 percent of the incarcerated are mothers, most of them raising a child without a partner. Eighty-two percent were incarcerated for nonviolent offenses, while 32 percent have serious mental illness and 82 percent suffer from drug or alcohol addiction. Finally, 77 percent of those polled were victims of partner violence and and another 60 percent experienced caregiver violence. …

The myth of the male bumbler, by Lily Loofbourow

Male bumblers are an epidemic.

These men are, should you not recognize the type, wide-eyed and perennially confused. What’s the difference, the male bumbler wonders, between a friendly conversation with a coworker and rubbing one’s penis in front of one? Between grooming a 14-year-old at her custody hearing and asking her out?

The world baffles the bumbler. He’s astonished to discover that he had power over anyone at all, let alone that he was perceived as using it. What power? he says. Who, me?

The bumbler is the first to confess that he’s bad at his job. Take Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who testified Tuesday of the Trump campaign’s foreign policy team, which he ran and which is now understood to have been in contact with Russian agents: “We were not a very effective group.” Or consider Dave Becky, the manager of disgraced comedian Louis C.K. (who confessed last week to sexual misconduct). Becky avers that “never once, in all of these years, did anyone mention any of the other incidents that were reported recently.” One might argue that no one should have needed to mention them; surely, as Louis C.K.’s manager, it was Becky’s job to keep tabs on open secrets about his client? Becky’s defense? He’s a bumbler! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ …

“Dear Men on the Left,” by @GappyTales

It was sometime in 2006 that I remember sitting on my sofa, watching George Galloway pretend to be a cat. Enthralling and disturbing in equal measure though it was, (poor Rula) it was not what struck me about the man. Lodged in my mind far more firmly are the comments he made regarding fellow housemate and glamour model, Jodie Marsh: that perhaps some might feel it sexist, but he believed deep down she likely longed for nothing more than a quiet life of marriage and motherhood. I remember I gasped in disbelief. Had he really just said that? The man on the left beside me didn’t even flinch.

I wish I could say that were the first time it had dawned on me that some men supposedly on my side were not, but the instances are too many to name. The tale of one visiting man, loaded into a shopping trolley and forcibly wheeled off site by exasperated Greenham women, was a staple of my childhood. …

The Westminster Allegations Redux.

Michael Fallon lunged at me after our lunch, by Jane Merrick

When the story first broke last weekend that a secret list of “sex pest” Conservative MPs and cabinet ministers drawn up by researchers was circulating in Westminster, I decided to talk about my own experience of being lunged at by a Tory MP. By publicly discussing how it felt to be in that position, and how it was not acceptable, I thought it would help others to come forward to report sexual harassment. Yet because my incident happened 14 years ago, I decided not to name the MP in question.

A week on, things have changed. The MP has denied some allegations against him, and minimised others as somehow acceptable because they date from another time. His lack of contrition has made me change my mind. It is time for me to say publicly that the MP who lunged at me was Sir Michael Fallon. …

Bex Bailey, Labour activist, says she was raped at party event and told not to report it, by Rowena Mason, Anushka Asthana and Matthew Weaver

Allegations of sexual misconduct in Westminster took a new turn on Tuesday as a Labour activist spoke of being raped at a party event after a woman had described being assaulted on a hotel bed by an MP last year.

The two women both criticised the lack of proper processes for reporting their allegations, as political parties struggled with a fifth day of serious revelations about harassment and abuse in British politics.

The second woman, who said she was sexually assaulted by an MP on a hotel bed last year, criticised as “inadequate” proposals announced by the government on Monday aimed at enhancing existing reporting systems in parliament.

The Westminster staffer, who works for another MP and asked to remain anonymous, said there needed to be a “credible independent body” to investigate complaints about politicians’ behaviour that was not connected to the parties. …

Damian Green denies making sexual advances towards young Tory activist, by Matthew Weaver*

Theresa May has ordered an investigation into allegations that her deputy, Damian Green, made inappropriate advances to a female activist in the last two years.

Kate Maltby, who is 30 years younger than Green, the first secretary of state, told the Times he had “fleetingly” touched her knee during a meeting in a Waterloo pub in 2015 and sent her a “suggestive” text message after she was pictured wearing a corset in the newspaper.

Green, one of May’s closest political allies, said any allegation that he made sexual advances to Maltby was “untrue [and] deeply hurtful”.

One Tory MP has called for Green to be suspended while the allegations are investigated. Green is the most senior politician yet to be caught up in a wave of allegations and rumours relating to sexual harassment and abuse swirling around Westminster. …

This is why I came forward with my experience of sexual harassment by an MP – anonymous testimony

I am a member of the Labour Party. I was a delegate for my local CLP at the Labour Party Conference this September. I am a Corbyn supporter, a feminist and an activist. And I am also the anonymous woman who has lodged a complaint with the Labour Party over the inappropriate actions of an MP who “squeezed” my bum at our incredible conference in Brighton.

Of course, for the past few days the final statement has eclipsed all the others. Because that is how this works. It is the “bum squeezes”, the “knee touches”, the “lift lunges”, the “handsiness”, and then of course the denials, the silencing, the gaslighting that inevitably follow, this is the arena in which men keep women (and sometimes other men) in our bodies and, ultimately, in our place.

Was I traumatised by having my bum squeezed at conference? Of course not. Do you honestly think a bum squeeze gets anywhere near the list of the ways in which men have violated my boundaries, used their and my body against me to exert a subtle, or sometimes violent power over me? …

BBC News – Lib Dem member ‘referred to police over rape allegation’ 

The allegations emerged in a series of tweets over the weekend, which claimed an alleged victim’s complaint had been “hushed up” by party HQ.

The party said a member was suspended “pending the outcome” of a police probe but gave no further details.

It is the first allegation involving the Lib Dems in the misconduct scandal currently engulfing Westminster. …

Kate Malby wrote about her experience of sexual harassment for The Times. Unfortunately, it is behind a pay wall. You can find it here. 

This is the current list of Westminster sexual misconduct allegations: the MPs accused so far, written by Haroon Siddique for the Guardian. Here is a collection of articles I collated last week:

https://storify.com/EVB_Now/sexual-harassment-in-westminister

Transing children & the myth of an unbiased medical establishment

This is part II of a series on radical feminism and transgenderism. The first, The Conservative Gendered Stereotyping of Children, Radical Feminism and transgenderism’ is available here.

 

I have many concerns about the current push to medically transition children because of sex-based stereotyping as I outlined here in the case of a child whose mother was terrified he was gay – on the say so homophobic relatives. As a radical feminist, I view gender as socially constructed upon the material reality of female and male bodies. It is also, in the words of Claire Heuchan, a “hierarchy imposed by men to ensure their dominance over women’. Gender, as a theoretical concept, is inherently harmful. As a ‘reality’, it is responsible for the oppression of women globally through FGM, domestic and sexual violence and abuse, pornography, prostitution, and femicide. Women are not oppressed because they identify as female; women are oppressed because men construct women’s biological sex as ‘inferior’ and women themselves as possessions. As Marina Strinkovsky writes,

if gender is real and biological sex a social construct, if sex is not a “real” and meaningful political or economic category, on what basis did the parents of the hundreds of millions of women and girls lost to femicide know who to kill?”

This question seems perfectly reasonable: how do we decide which foetuses should be aborted and what humans to pay less if not through the material reality of biological sex. Yet, this question is considered ‘transphoic’. Any questioning of gender theory is met with abuse and threats. Suggesting children might not be capable of deciding about medical care is met with derision in cases of transgender children, but not children undergoing treatment for diseases such as cancer. There is a double standard here that needs to be explored more fully and we absolutely need more research into the way in which mental health diagnoses or suicide risks are defined within the transgender movement. However, in this essay I want to focus specifically on gender identity and the theory of an unbiased medical establishment.

Personally, I find the idea that a child born with a penis *must* be a girl if he plays with a doll or wears sparkly shoes and that a child born with a vagina must be a boy if she plays with toy cars completely insane. A 2 year old plays with toys. They have no idea what is a ‘boy’s toy’ or a ‘girl’s toy’ is without being told by their parents, extended family or peers. It is utterly ridiculous that we have now arrived at a point where a 2 year old is deemed competent to define their own ‘gender’ when we don’t allow them to operate heavy machinery, vote, or decide whether or not they are going to wear pants outside when its -20 degrees. There is simply not enough adequate or unbiased research in neurobiology and gender identity to consider a 2 year old or a 12 year old to have gillock competence over their mental health and future reproductive choices. Even if research around gender identity and gillock competence was well-established, I am extremely concerned that we are allowing children to take drugs to prevent puberty on the say so of a supposedly unbiased medical establishment and without rigorous long-term studies that assess patients according to the medical and mental health, particularly looking at how trauma harms child brain development.*

Frankly, even the research into gender dysphoria, which is real, is questionable when we remove sex based stereotypes and children who present as ‘trans’ who grow up to be homosexual. It’s not surprising that surgery to ‘transition’ an adult is considered more acceptable than being homosexual in deeply conservative countries like the US and Iran, where the penalty for being gay is death.

Since any discussion of the potential consequences of puberty blockers or gender dysphoria in general is met with cries of ‘transphobia’, pharmaceutical companies and various medical professionals  have been given carte blanche to claim puberty blockers are safe with no real research into the long-term effects of these drugs on children.

Perhaps it is my natural cynicism but I find the faith in an unbiased medical establishment deeply bizarre. This is not to say that gender dysphoria is not real. It is fairly clear that dysphoria exists and causes severe distress to many people. However, the huge growth in young people presenting with dysphoria who are given medical interventions without investigating how they came to believe they were trans is concerning.

Even if we ignore the recent scandals involving transvaginal meshes, the links between baby powder and ovarian cancer, the profit before people policies as seen in the recent price gouging in the sale of epi-pens and AIDS drugs, the well documented racist and sexist history of birth control, and the use of lobotomies to treat mental illness, it is completely unethical to push a medical ‘cure’ when there is very little research on the long term consequences of that ‘cure’ when delaying puberty or promoting chest binding in girls.

The clear history of the medical and pharmaceutical industrial complex in prioritising profit over people should have us questing the motivations of all involved – mostly how much money they will make claiming 10 year olds need puberty blockers and that surgery is necessary to decrease the rate of suicide in transgender people when it appears that the rate of suicide attempts and death remain the same both pre and post-surgery.** In the context of the US, where many people have no health insurance, and the number of people in the UK who travel to Thailand and other jurisdictions that have less over sight of the medical establishment, it is absolutely essential to follow the money.

We need more research into the rise in gender identity and gender dysphoria before assuming that pharmaceutical companies and doctors *always* have the best interests of their patients at heart. We need to investigate who gets rich through research and through medical practise. We need more research into why so many children are transitioning – and how this is impacted by homophobia from family and peers. We need more research around the links between child sexual abuse, trauma and transition. We need more research why some people regret transition, particularly those post-surgery, a question that is currently deemed ‘transphobic’.***

I have very little faith in the medical and pharmaceutical industrial complex to commit to research that does not make them rich. And, right now, the industry is making a whole lot of money off people with simply not enough evidence to support the first commandment of doctors: do no harm. This is without discussing the homophobia inherent in insisting that 2 year old boys who play with dresses have to be a girl and not a) a normal child; or b) gay  (as though we could guess sexuality on a child who has no idea what sex or relationships are). Children should not be used as medical experiments outside of strictly controlled trials – like the ones used to investigate how to manage pain in premature babies of the effectiveness of certain treatments for diseases – and never by your local GP.

People who have gender dysphoria have the right to access safe medical and pharmaceutical support. At this point, we don’t have enough evidence that ‘safe’ exists and is monitored appropriately. Call me cynical, but companies who sell drugs at hugely over-inflated prices aren’t going to be the ones who will do such research without a financial incentive.

Follow the money to unravel the myths is as true in research into pornography and prostitution, as it is in medical transition. We simply aren’t doing this.

 

*A number of high profile male to female trans women have spoken publicly about their experiences of child sexual abuse.

** This article published by The Conversation is worth reading: “FactCheck Q&A: was Lyle Shelton right about transgender people and a higher suicide risk after surgery?”.

***I would also like to see more long term studies on the rates and types of violence perpetrated by male to female trans and its relation to men who do not have dysphoria. The only real research at this point is a Swedish study that suggests trans women have the exact same rate of violence as men.

 

Bibliography

Deborah Cameron, A brief history of ‘gender’, (2016)

Delilah Campbell, Who owns gender , (2015)

Catherine Drury, ‘Gender dysphoria in children’,  (Fair Play for Women, 2017)

Jeni Harvey, The Misogyny Of Modern Feminism, (2017)

Claire Heuchan, ‘Sex, Gender, and the New Essentialism, ‘  Sister Outrider, (2017)

Claire Heuchan, ‘The Problem That Has No Name because “Woman” is too Essentialist‘, Sister Outrider, (2017)

Claire Heuchan, Binary or Spectrum, Gender is a HierarchySister Outrider, (2017)

Jane Clare Jones, You are killing me: On hate speech and feminist silencing, (2015)

Nymeses, Being Told You Have Gender Dysphoria as a Lesbian, (2016)

Thain Parnell, ‘Transition is no casual matter, and we need to talk about those who regret it’,  (Feminist Current, 2017)

Rebecca Reilly-Cooper, ‘Trans issues and gender identity’, (Sex & Gender: A Beginner’s Guide, 2015)

Rebecca Reilly-Cooper, ‘The idea that gender is a spectrum is a new gender prison’, (Aeon, 2016)

RootVeg, ‘Gender is socially constructed upon a material reality’ , (2015)

Victoria Smith, ‘Anorexia, breast binding and the legitimisation of body hatred’ (New Statesman, 2016)

#DickheadDetox: The Weinstein Years

It’s been a few years since I’ve written a post tracking abusive celebrity men under the tag #DickheadDetox. The origins came from an article by Eva Wiseman in the Guardian about holding violent male celebrities accountable:

“It’s to do with my problem giving money to dicks, to people who’ve punched their wives or broken their teeth. It’s to do with linking the things they’ve done to the things they’ve made. It’s a rule I’m currently formalising – I’m turning off the TV when abusers appear. I’m leaving shops where their songs dribble from the PA; I’m turning off the radio. Like a juice cleanse. A dickhead detox. And it feels good.”

I’ve been trying to do this, however avoiding financially supporting artists with a history of violence against women and girls is much easier than avoiding those who collude with them by minimising their crimes. Or continuing to work with abusers. You only have to look at the careers of Woody Allen and Roman Polanski. And, now, Harvey Weinstein.

Harvey Weinstein’s actions are not an aberration. He is not an isolated incident.

Harvey Weinstein is the product of a white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy which requires women to pass the patriarchal fuckability test whilst holding them accountable for the rape and abuse they experience.

If Harvey Weinstein was an aberration, Roman Polanski would not have gotten a standing ovation at the Oscars; sexual harassment in schools would not be increasing in astronomical numbers; and, the majority of rapists would be in prisons having been found guilty of their crimes. Instead of the exact opposite.

The women who have been sexually harassed, assaulted and raped by Harvey Weinstein have been brave in speaking out knowing precisely what the punishment is for holding violent men accountable: being labeled liars and harassed and abused online.

Rape culture is a victim blaming culture and a culture of enabling violent and abusive men. Weinstein’s victims are already being berated for not speaking out sooner to ‘protect’ other women – as though they would have been believed. It is very clear that many, many men in Hollywood knew about Weinstein and did nothing – men who had the clout to refuse to work with him. Men who control the very media companies that could have reported the crimes. Instead, Weinstein is pretending to have a “sex addiction” – the new go to excuse for rapists.

The women Weinstein targeted were famous, young, vulnerable, and equally the daughters of powerful actors. The way Weinstein targeted these women reads like the various Jimmy Savile inquiries: powerful men given access to victims with the active collusion of some and the refusal of others to take a stand. And, the inquiries into the sexual exploitation of girls involved in gymnastics. Children living in care homes. Slate has created a timeline of Weinstein’s known criminal acts starting in 1990, which is distressing in the similarity of experiences. There are many women whose names are not recorded here as they are not in a position to speak out publicly or have chosen not to. Considering how long Weinstein has been assaulting women, it is clear that the number we see now are only the tip of the iceberg.

The #DickheadDetox is about refusing to financially support celebrities. This list is those who originally made my list for male violence against women and girls.

And, a significant chunk of the cast of the film The Expendables 3.

Richard Dawkins got a mention in the original #DickheadDetox for misogyny and rape apologism; Donald Trump for being a white supremacist (before the allegations of sexual assault and rape were made public); Clint Eastwood is also on the list for racism; and Owen Jones is there for whining. Constantly. Perez Hilton got a special mention for daily misogynistic drivel (see also: Jeremy Clarkson and Christian Jessen). The hypocrisy of left-wing dudes is as tedious as it is ubiquitous (see Thomas Gibson and Russell Brand) with the Affleck brothers trading on their status as liberals to erase their history.

The updated list now features:

Quentin Tarantino gets a mention for whining about potential damage to his career for covering up the well documented criminal history of Harvey Weinstein. Matt Damon also gets a mention for covering up the crimes of Casey Affleck (not to mention the whole whitesplaining racism and diversity to a Black woman). Brad Pitt is on the list for knowing about Weinstein but doing nothing to stop him.

Then there is this list, by Beth Winegarner, which includes male celebrities whose history of violence I was unaware of including: Jim Carrey (domestic violence), James Deen, Rob Lowe (sexual harassment), Dudley Moore (domestic violence), James Caan (domestic violence) Billie Dee Williams (domestic violence), Oliver Stone (sexual harassment), Brett Ratner (sexual assault), and Arnold Schwarzenegger whose history of sexual harassment did not prevent him from becoming governor of California.

Carrie Fischer’s last book The Princess Diarist includes her ‘affair’ with Harrison Ford, which started during the filming of Star Wars. A number of male crew members had pushed Fisher into drinking too much at a bar and then tried to take her out of the building. Ford sees this and ‘rescues’ Fisher only to have sex with her instead. This incident received a lot of publicity after publication, but none focused on the inability of an incapacitated vulnerable 19 year old to consent to an encounter with a man 14 years her senior.

There has also been some interesting stories around Tom Cruise and his divorce from Katie Holmes. The Daily Mail, and other gossip sites, are claiming that Holmes had to sign a clause prohibiting her from  ‘publicly dating’ until 5 years after the divorce. There were allegations of coercive control throughout the marriage; always attributed to an ‘anonymous source’. Holmes has primary custody of their only child, who apparently went three years without seeing her father. Cruise’s children from his first marriage to Nicole Kidman remained in Cruise’s physical care following that divorce. Cruise’s name very rarely appears on lists of violent men, but there is a documented history of actions that constitute coercive control.

I had stopped writing entries to the #DickheadDetox because of my mental health. I stopped because it become overwhelming recording so many men. I’ve written very little over the past 2 years and it has taken me 8 hours to write this through panic attacks. I needed to write it.

Harvey Weinstein is not an aberration. Women telling their stories of sexualised violence is not unusual either. Yet, somehow this feels like a tidal wave has been dented. Not stopped. But dented enough for women to feel safe recording their experiences. Where this goes depends on men listening and standing up for women. Right now it feels like we may have a chance.

 

 

*I’m using both domestic abuse and domestic violence because the terms reflect the legal status of the crime in the jurisdictions in which the men were charged.

** None of these men were convicted of child rape. But, that’s because we live in a society that celebrates male violence and doesn’t give a shit about children.

*** I dislike using the term ‘alleged’ since it implies the victim is a liar. I believe victims. The criminal justice system and the laws around libel do not.

Michael Beck: Why labelling men who kill as ‘non-violent’ is irresponsible journalism

Screen Shot 2017-08-26 at 09.06.42Every single week, 2 men in England and Wales make a choice to kill their current or former partner. Despite the fact that these men consistently have a history of domestic violence, the media insists on reporting comments from random neighbours claiming that these men are ‘caring fathers‘, ‘loving brothers’, ‘quiet neighbours’,  and, as above, ‘non violent’. Men who choose to kill are violent. It’s pretty much the definition of the word since murder is an inherently violent act. As a culture, we refuse to recognise that coercive control is a choice made by men who believe they are entitled to own women and children, and that men who kill are not aberrations, but representative of the consequences of patriarchy.

The Guardian’s coverage of the murder of Nicola Beck by her husband Michael Beck is a quintessential example of how not write about male violence. It insinuates that Nicola’s request for a divorce was irrational because Michael did want it and, therefore, Michael’s choice to murder was rational. They quote Michael’s brother-in-law Hugo Peel who said this at the inquest:

” … Beck was a gentle man. …He had a sort of hope in his heart that he could repair the damage. He was not a violent man, quite the opposite. … He was not courageous in social interaction or dealing with issues. He would walk away from confrontation, he felt unequipped to deal with confrontation.”

Family members and neighbours frequently do not see the violence women are forced to live with. Perpetrators tend to be highly manipulative and very careful with their behaviour around other people. It’s not at all uncommon for close family members and friends to have no idea just how violent a man is. Publishing these types of quotes without making the context of how perpetrators operate clear obscures and elides the reality of male violence against women and children. This is particularly important in the context of Peel suggesting Michael was incapable of dealing with confrontation as it implies, once again, that Michael had no choice; that he lacked the skills to recognise Nicola as a person and so was forced to kill her. It is utterly irresponsible for The Guardian to have published this statement.

The most dangerous time for a woman who has an abusive and controlling partner is when she tries to end the relationship. The risk of physical and sexual violence increases and this is the point when women are most likely to be murdered, frequently with their children, or when children are murdered to punish their mother. It should go without saying that a neighbour, whose entire relationship with a perpetrator is saying hello when putting out the rubbish for collection, or a family member who has not witnessed violence or controlling behaviour themselves, are not in a position to make evidenced judgments about whether or not a man is gentle, good, or kind. Media who report these types of statements are engaged in bad journalism completely lacking in research or reality.

This is a copy of Michael’s suicide as it was published in The Sun (who themselves concentrated on the Beck’s financial status rather than the murder, because it’s more important to note that Michael was rich rather than recognising the life of Nicola). Generally, we do not support the publishing of suicide letters. We have made an exception in this case because the letter is not only a suicide letter but a defence of murder.

Screen Shot 2017-08-26 at 10.54.41

The Sun’s coverage is as senstionalist as one expects of the tabloid press. The Guardian uses less emotive language, but it also glosses over the evidence of Beck’s clear history of entitlement and financial control as written in his suicide note:

“I have spent my entire life fighting over money”

Yes, Michael was a stockbroker, but this quote is in relation to his marriage and not his career. It is not normal to spend one’s life “fighting over money”. The Guardian do quote the assistant Devon coroner, Lydia Brown, who makes it clear that financial control was part of the motive for this murder, without contextualising financial abuse as a form of coercive control. This is without the issue of Michael defining murder as ‘grubby’ and demanding his family punish Nicola’s family.

Where the Guardian truly failed was at the end of the article. They included the hotline phone number for the Samaritans (116 123, UK) but did not include the National Domestic Violence Hotline (0808 2000 247). The Samaritans media guidelines make it absolutely clear that the number should be included in any media coverage of suicide, but this was not just a case of suicide. Michael Beck clearly had a history of domestic violence and this was a murder where coercive control was a defining factor as Michael felt justified in killing Nicola because she tried to escape his abuse. The feminist organisation Zero Tolerance have written a comprehensive media guideline for reporting violence against women and girls that require the inclusion of the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Granted, Zero Tolerance’s guidelines are 42 pages long, however the The National Union of Journalists have written a 3 page media guideline on reporting violence against women and girls for those journalists unwilling to take out 15 minutes of their day to do some basic research. The NUJ make it very clear that it is essential to include the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

The question is: why did The Guardian prioritise the Samaritans hotline? And, why did they fail to recognise that this murder was a consequence of male entitlement and coercive control? When will mainstream media start to recognise that murder-suicides are almost always a consequence of domestic violence? That victims of domestic violence matter as much as people who are experiencing suicidal thoughts? That men who kill their children and/or current or former partners are not victims but perpetrators? Because the failure to include the National Domestic Violence Hotline implies that Michael is more deserving of respect and empathy than his victim. And, this is not an aberration but part of the conducive context in which male violence occurs and part of the continuum of violence against women and girls.

Nicola deserved better from The Guardian.

This was first published by Everyday Victim Blaming on August 27, 217.

Raising Useless Children – A disaster of Helicopter Parenting.

My eldest daughter’s first year of secondary school included a residential outdoor education trip. She had already been on one in primary school at a similar centre so I wasn’t going to bother attending the parent’s information meeting. Until she came home with not only a list of things required to take but skills needed to be allowed on the trip, including:

  • Being able to butter her own toast
  • Cut up dinner
  • Pour herself a drink without spilling
  • Getting dressed by herself
  • Brushing her own teeth.

As with all comprehensive schools in Scotland, integration for students with additional support needs was policy (although these children never get the actual level of support required due to systemic underfunding). The school also had a unit attached for students with autism who may find a full day too difficult. I assumed that my daughter had collected the wrong form and that the list was to double check children’s support needs in order to ensure the appropriate level of staffing to ensure that all children could attend. I went along to the information meeting assuming it would be a waste of my time (since I’d sat through a similar one the year before).

I was wrong.

My daughter had indeed brought home the right letter. And, the list above: for children without any additional support needs.

According to the head teacher, every single year at least one or two children attended who couldn’t do some or all of the above for themselves, because their parents did everything for them. The children, age 11-12, were all boys.

I was utterly boggled at the idea that a 12 year old couldn’t pour themselves a glass of juice. It’s a skill I assumed most kids had perfected at nursery level with the ubiquitous sand and water table. But, no. There are genuinely 12 year old boys who have never had to butter their own toast. Whilst my eyebrows were attached to the ceiling, this did, at least, explain the number of 8 year old boys in women’s change rooms at the pool – not for reasons of safety, but because they couldn’t dry themselves with a towel. Having never tried. Quite how schools cope with this particular group of children during upper primary swimming lessons is beyond me. I’d be tempted to go with: if you can’t use a towel, you can’t go swimming, obviously for only those children who should have needed no support.

I’ve been banging on about this for a decade now, mostly on Mumsnet where very few parents of girls were surprised by the level of learned helplessness. Especially those who hung out on the relationships board full of women needing help to get their husbands to put their own dishes in the dishwasher or dirty pants in the laundry. Husbands who assumed their job and penis prevented them from actually being required to not be an asshole. Even if the wife worked full time and they had 6 kids. She was required to come home and do another full day’s work. He got to do his ‘hobby’,  which is code for being an asshat. Inevitably, some handmaiden would rock up to say that insisting your partner is capable of operating the washing machine was awful because their husbands do nothing and a dude capable of putting dirty pants in the laundry was the baseline for awesome men. This would be men who can operate satellite TV, Netflix, and google. But incapable of working out the clearly labelled on button on a washing machine or dishwasher.  After more than a decade on Mumsnet, I’ve come to believe that we’ve raised a generation of young men more entitled, selfish and mean-spirited than their own fathers who, in the 1970s, at least pretended to be acquainted with kitchen equipment.

Despite all of the above and many, many years in playgroups listening to women whose husbands were utterly useless as human beings, I was still shocked by Saskia Sarginson’s recent Guardian column on her utterly pathetic adult children who still live at home and can’t work out how to use a litter box. Children who apparently pay no rent or buy any food. Or, feed a cat without whining to Mummy and Daddy about their siblings.

I’m hoping the column is all exaggeration and hyperbole, but, frankly, I expect its completely true. After all, when my eldest started uni a few years ago and lived in halls for first year, helicopter parenting continued. The students were only expected to clear after themselves in the kitchen and take out the bin. There were cleaning staff who vacuumed , cleaned the bathrooms, and a deep clean of the kitchen. Several students in her halls had parents come up on the weekend to help their children clean their rooms and do the very few chores expected of them. And not parents who lived round the corner. Quite frankly, global warning would decrease significantly if these parents stayed at home instead of driving 6 hours in an SUV to do their kid’s laundry.

My daughter did suggest I come down to ‘help’. There was much hysterical laughter on my side. I did get a drunken phone call a few weeks later to the effect of ‘you know all the times I thought you were horrible making me do stuff. I was wrong. Thank you for ensuring I’m not an idiot’. Obviously, this particular call has since been denied. And, there was definitely no retracting of me being horrible in other ways than forcing her to clean the cat litter, learn to cook and take out the recycling.

I’m not suggesting I’m a perfect parent. We could be here for days if my eldest was going to list my failings. The youngest, now responsible for cleaning the cat litter, has an excellent side eye for moments of parental unacceptability. However, the best part of having an adult child is watching them live their lives capable of dealing with crap, both literally and figuratively, without falling apart or requiring their mother come every few weeks to help with laundry. Granted, I would prefer mine not to be on the other side of the planet, but she’s having a brilliant time and that’s what matters most. Even if I’m insanely jealous of the weather and an affordable public transport system.

As for Sarginson’s children who have somehow become adults with zero life skills, well I feel sorry for them. Being forced to live with your parents whilst an adult because your wages don’t cover rent and food at the same time is the consequence of a malicious government and unfettered capitalism. Living with your parents because you are incapable of operating a washing machine or feeding the cat is a consequence of piss-poor parenting. It’s not funny or something to brag about. We need to start addressing this type of learned helplessness and infantilisation as harmful to children. Whilst child abuse is completely inappropriate here as a term, raising a child who cannot care for themselves is more than just raising entitled lazy brats. Its unfair and cruel to expect a child who has never once washed a dish, or buttered their own toast, to be an actual functioning adult.

What happens when these children try to live with long-term partners? Have children? Or, after their parents die? Will they even be capable of maintaining a long-term relationship if they’ve been raised to believe that others will always pick up the tab and do all the wifework? That you are so important that basic life skills are unimportant and mean. What will Sarginson’s kids be like in 5 years? Because my assumption would be unhappy.

There is a huge gulf between a 12 year old who can’t butter their own toast and an adult who can’t care for the cat for 2 days, but both are predicated on the desire of the parents to be ‘needed’ at the expense of the emotional and physical wellbeing of their children. And, in this case, publicly humiliating children for a couple of bucks from the Guardian.

Sarginson, and her, partner have reared 3 children who have no understanding of reality. Parenting is the least glamorous job in the world and women are held responsible for the majority of child rearing. Fucking up is normal because no one is perfect. However, 3 adult children who never pay rent or buy groceries who can’t be left alone for a weekend without whining and carrying on isn’t funny. It’s utterly pathetic.

 

Bibliography

Cordelia Fine, Delusions of Gender, (Icon Books, 2010)

Cordelia Fine, Testosterone Rex: Unmaking the myths of our gendered minds, (Icon Books, 2017)

Arlene Hochschild, The Second Shift, (Penguin Books, 2003)

Susan Maushart, The Mask of Motherhood, (Penguin Books, 1999)

Susan Maushart. Wifework: Men get one thing marriage that women never do -wives, (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2002)

 

 

Lisa Hilton’s Athenais: When spite is mistaken for women’s history

I came across this book in a charity shop. I’m glad it only cost 50p, otherwise I’d have to write to the publisher demanding my money back for mis-selling a deeply spiteful text as a “biography” of Athenais, mistress of King Louis XIV of France.

Whilst the premise is ostensibly biographical, it’s mostly a treatise on how ugly women deserve to be treated like pieces of shit. And, any man who cheats on his ‘ugly’ wife has every right to; especially if you are the King of France and like pretty things. Then you get to be as abusive, cruel, and selfish as you like. You can humiliate and insult your wife, pretend she doesn’t’ exist, and still be considered a good guy, Because, hey, you’re the king, And, even the ugliest guy doesn’t deserve an ugly wife. Even if they are violent and hateful and cruel.

Even Athenais is dismissed as irrelevant once she stops being beautiful. Her beauty gone because she got fat. After giving birth to 9 children and being in a relationship with a man who forced all of those around him to eat too much.

Below are three images of the snide way in which women are treated. Hilton’s misogyny was accompanied by the usual classism and racism, but I have just picked examples of her loathing of women.

Here we have the theory that Queen Marie-Therese was so ugly that King Louis XIV was required to cheat on her repeatedly.

The Dauphin’s choice of an ‘ugly’ woman was clearly because he was insane. As no proper king would choose such an ugly woman (except, obviously, his father who was also trapped in a marriage with an ugly woman). 

And, women are stupid. Therefore, completely deserving of being described as hysterical.

No one should bother reading this book, and I am now stuck between burning the copy I have, keeping it so no one else is forced to read it, or returning it to the charity shop I bought it from.

Burning it is my current default position.

Zadie Smith: why the focus on make-up ignores the massive elephant in the room

I was fortunate enough to get tickets to see Zadie Smith at the Edinburgh Book Festival this year, which is why I know the “Zadie Smith banned her daughter from wearing make-up” is utter bollocks. Quite how the person who spread this rumour managed to understand Smith’s comment as a ban is mind-boggling. I’m veering between two options: a) they are on the wrong side of dim; b) deliberately propagated this for click bait.

It is incredibly disappointing to see media who claim to be feminist calling out Smith without investigating the context in which Smith referred to make-up. She did not “ban’ her daughter from wearing make-up.  The statement below was in response to a question from the about raising children within the harmful culture of patriarchal standards that hold girls to unrealistic expectations of beauty. Smith used the issue of time as a way to explain to her daughter, in age appropriate language, how patriarchal standards negatively impact girls’ lives.

This article from Feministing very good on ‘choice’ feminism and patriarchy:

… Makeup cannot be beyond the realm of criticism just because we enjoy it and it makes us feel good. There are social contexts and structures which contribute to why we enjoy it and why it makes us feel good. Our existence in a misogynistic society operates in complex ways: we can subvert and reappropriate the tools of our oppression, but we cannot completely erase the patriarchal conditions of our existence through our own choices and enjoyment.

To lambaste Zadie Smith for expressing worry that her daughter could be forced to care about things that her son won’t be compelled to care about — things that could affect her self-worth, her spending, and her assessment of herself — is to fall into an uncritical and complicit liberal feminism. We can, and must, pass on a feminism that more rigorously interrogates systems (and does not see this critique as an attack on individuals) to the next generation of young people who will need it to navigate a sexist world. …

What seriously pisses me off about the attacks on Smith are that all of this media coverage has erased the real problem: white privilege.

The chair of the sessions was critic Stuart Kelly, who I had not heard of before this. I had a raised eyebrow early in the session due to some of Kelly’s questions, which were on the wrong side of pompous. This is without the multiple references to his involvement with the Man Booker prize. I left the session under the impression that Kelly had been both a judge and the organising committee for a number of years. Wikipedia, the font of all knowledge, says no.

Kelly lost all credibility when he stated that the focus on choosing ‘quality’ books for major literary awards will, eventually, lead to ‘equality’; that focusing on gender, race, or class is not necessary. Quite how long he expected this transformation to take considering millennia of oppression experienced by those not privileged enough to have been born white, rich and male.

I’m also pretty certain he’s been practising that statement in front of the bathroom mirror because he looked incredibly pleased with himself for sneaking it in. Because he was a judge at the Man Booker prize one year. After a deer in the headlights moment when he realised no one was going to give him cookies for being awesome, Kelly opened the session up to questions from the audience; a number of which were more white people’s feelings than recognising Smith’s discussions of race, class and gender.

Granted, a number of questions from the audience weren’t exactly quintessential examples of intersectionality at play, but the focus on Smith’s words around make-up and raising girls in a culture which considers beauty more important than intelligence is sexism. I would love to see feminist press targeting Kelly’s refusal to understand how multiple oppressions prevent people from accessing publishers; never mind how books are chosen for literary awards. Instead, they’ve gone for shaming Smith for trying to raise a daughter who recognises the structural oppressions within a white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.

Sharing images of ‘missing children’: the problems of violent fathers and spiteful trolls

Within hours of the bombing at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, people across social media were sharing images of those who were declared missing. Some of these were shared by family and friends who knew girls and women attending the concert, but who had not yet heard whether they were safe. These images were also being shared by those wanting to help – a desire borne out of genuine kindness. Unfortunately, by early Tuesday morning, media were already reporting that some of the images being shared were of people who were not at the concert. One of the first images we saw when we logged on to Twitter was of Nasar Ahmed, who died in November from an asthma attack at school. We immediately tweeted out asking people not to share images of children declared missing unless they knew that the source is real. At that point, we didn’t know the scale of the spiteful and cruel trolling. Then we were informed that another image being shared was of Jayden Parkinson who was murdered in 2013 by her boyfriend, who had a history of domestic violence. In the end, multiple false images were being shared; many of which originated from a thread on reddit where men were encouraging each other to deliberately and maliciously harm the families and friends of victims with ‘fake news’.

Male violence doesn’t exist in a vacuum. The toxic hyper-masculinity, which results in suicide bombers targeting young girls attending a concert in Manchester, the mass sexualised violence of children, and the proliferation of violent pornography is also responsible for the so-called ‘trolling’ of victims of male violence. Terrorists, like rapists and domestic violence perpetrators, depend on the support of these men to increase the carnage and fear. Whilst we’re quite sure that these ‘trolls’, who deliberately shared misleading images will have absolute tantrums about being compared to the supporters of Daesh, they are part of the same conducive context of violence against women and girls that allows male violence and toxic masculinity to flourish.

This is the reality of male violence in the global context: men believing they have the right to commit violence against the bodies of women and children; men believing they are entitled to control women and children; and men thinking it is hilarious to maliciously target traumatised victims and their families.

There is another reason to be careful when sharing images of ‘missing children’ online, which is also due to male violence. In this case, it is men who are perpetrators of domestic violence and abuse.The most dangerous time for women is when they leave a controlling or violent partner. It is this time period which sees an increase in the intensity of violence, such as that requiring medical treatment, but also murder: of the woman, a mother with her children, or the children to ‘punish’ the mother. Violent fathers denied access to their children have been creating fake ‘missing children’ notices for years, relying on the kindness of strangers on social media to stalk former partners and children.

It is essential to ensure that images of ‘missing children’ come from a reliable source: a family member or police in order to prevent violent men finding victims of their violence and, now, preventing so-called ‘trolls’ for targeting victims of terrorist attacks. Unfortunately, due to institutionalised racism and misogyny, police forces don’t always recognise missing children as ‘missing’. BAME children are far more likely to be deemed ‘runaways’ and, therefore, not worth ‘wasting’ police time in searching for them. Mainstream media are equally culpable and are far more likely to share images of white children who are missing. Sometimes social media is the only place actively searching for these children. If a missing child image does not come from a reliable source, you can reverse image research to find the origins of the photo.

In a just and fair world, all missing children would be deemed equally important. Mainstream media would give as much attention to a missing 14-year-old Black boy from London as they do a 13-year-old white girl from Surrey. The police would have appropriate resources to find children and support them – after all, children who do run away from home do so for a reason. Sometimes home is the least safe space for a child. Children, and their mothers, would be able to live free of violence, or the threat therein. Perpetrators would be held accountable for their actions and choices. Family courts would ban violent fathers from using them to continue controlling their former partners. Child contact would be deemed in the best interest of the child based on peer-reviewed research, which clearly shows that children do better without being forced to visit violent fathers.

We don’t live in a just world though. And, until then, we need to take care on social media to ensure that the children labelled missing are actually missing. We need to hold the mainstream media and police to account when they fail to investigate and report on missing BAME children. It is a delicate balance that no one will not always get right every time, because it is hard to believe just how spiteful and malicious online ‘trolls’ are. They depend on our compassion for others, which is why we need to hold the men who posted false images of ‘missing children’ legally culpable, as well as those who commit terrorist attacks. Sharing fake images of ‘missing’ children is a heinous act and it is part of the continuum of violence against women and girls. We need to eradicate all forms and this starts with insisting that spiteful and malicious ‘trolling’ of the victims of violence is a serious criminal act so that no other family has to go through what happened to those impacted by the Manchester bombing: as victims themselves or families like those of Ahmed and Parkinson.

 

First published at Everyday Victim Blaming on 7.6.2017